Various Artists

Gentle Duke: The Ellington Soloists Play Duke

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Much like Fantasy's contemporaneous Jazz Giants series in concept but under different auspices, a brace of former Ellington sidemen are heard interpreting a dozen of Duke's standards. The time frame of the recordings has shrunk to only a six-year period, and oddly, some of the leaders here were not Ellington alumni (their featured sidemen were). But as if to compensate, half of the tracks are making their CD debuts (a much higher percentage than the Jazz Giants series thus far), often originating from two of Prestige's more obscure holdings, the Moodsville and Swingville labels. Bud Freeman, Clark Terry, Taft Jordan, Ben Webster (with Joe Zawinul), Jimmy Forrest (with Oliver Nelson's big band), Betty Roche, Cootie Williams, Bill Harris and Buddy Tate are the leaders, with a Swingville All-Stars jam on "Things Ain't What They Used to Be" as a closer. Among one listener's choice cuts, Webster is eloquence personified on "Come Sunday" (an alternate take yet!) and as a counterpoint to Harris on "In a Mellotone."

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